Hugo Palmer: The latest on Galileo Gold ahead of Royal Ascot, and Covert Love's retirement

Hugo is confident that Galileo Gold is ready for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot
Hugo is confident that Galileo Gold is ready for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot

Racing trainer and Betfair ambassador Hugo Palmer gives us his view on Galileo Gold ahead of Royal Ascot, and his thoughts on Covert Love...

"He is buzzing ahead of the biggest race of his career, though the Guineas will always be the most important race for him, as that was a Classic and the announcement and arrival of a very good horse."

Galileo Gold is in absolutely fantastic form ahead of what promises to be a very exciting clash of the three Guineas winners in the St James's Palace Stakes on Tuesday, and what appears very much the race of the meeting and of the season so far.

He has delighted me in his recent work, and we have kept him a bit busier between Ireland and Ascot than we did between the two Guineas, and he seems more relaxed and settled as a result.

He is buzzing ahead of the biggest race of his career, though the Guineas will always be the most important race for him, as that was a Classic and the announcement and arrival of a very good horse.

It will be infuriating for everybody concerned with the meeting if the weather is bad this week and the ground gets very soft, as no-one targets mud-lovers at Royal Ascot.

However, let's hope that the weather isn't bad as forecast in some places this week as it can ruin the track, racing, hats, picnics and the whole spectacle. This is not a meeting for jumpers, and jumping ground.

The ground will hopefully not be as bad as it was at the Curragh on Guineas day, when the Irish trainers told me that it was nearer heavy than the official description of yielding.

Galileo Gold ran a great race there, especially considering Awtaad got first run on him. He was trapped in a pocket on the inside and he couldn't properly gallop and use his stride until the winner had flown. I am not suggesting we would have beaten Awtaad, but it certainly wasn't ideal.

You clearly have to greatly respect Awtaad and The Gurkha, but it does puzzle me why The Gurkha is as low as 5-4 in the betting and we are 11-2.

Of course, you can argue that The Gurkha is the least exposed horse in the race but as far as I can see the only bit of collateral form comes from First Selection. We beat him 8½ lengths at Newmarket, and The Gurkha did so by only 5½ lengths at Deauville, and he looks to have run his race on both occasions.

We don't know how much any of the three Guineas winners, or last year's good 2yo Emotionless, have progressed from their last runs, but I am happy enough with our draw in seven.

It is a touch wider than ideal, but The Gurkha is drawn in one, Emotionless in two, and Awtaad in three, and there is a danger that they could find the pacemakers and outsiders coming back on them on the inside as they weaken in the straight, and hopefully Frankie can avoid trouble from his outside draw.

For a horse with a tendency to go left, I was hoping that Copper Knight would have been drawn higher than nine of 24 in the Windsor Castle.

He is in great form though, and has bounced back well from his disappointing run in the National Stakes at Sandown, from which he came back sore afterwards.

We have put blinkers on him - and he has worked well in them since Sandown - and I think he is definitely good enough to win a race like this on his homework. But, of course, you win no prizes at home.

A strongly-run 5f will suit this strong traveller. This race often splits up into two or three groups, and I certainly think he is good enough to win whatever one he ends up in. If that is the case then let's hope he is in the right one.

Gifted Master is still in the Jersey Stakes on Wednesday and the Commonwealth Cup on Friday, and the former remains the likely target. He would be the best horse in the race on official figures in the Jersey, even with his 3lb penalty for his Group 3 win.

He is spot on and in flying form, and the ground won't be a problem, and I think that we will end up going down the 7f route. But I must admit that, Quiet Reflection aside, the Commonwealth Cup doesn't have a lot of strength in depth and is a tempting option over a stiff 6f.

Covert Love was obviously in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday but we found her to have a swollen joint and a strained ligament on Sunday morning and we have acted in the best interests of the filly and she has been retired.

We had a wonderful, magical journey with her and, having won the Irish Oaks for us last season, she will always be remembered by the stable as our first Classic winner. And it was a privilege to train her for such nice owners.

It is very disappointing for the whole yard - particularly Glen Magee, who rode her every day - and her owners. She was an absolute star and owes us nothing at all.

She was bigger and stronger this year, and appeared to have improved so much, that we hoped that there was a lot more to come from her this season.

But, as a Classic-winning filly, she will now be an eligible suitor for any stallion in the world. And we wish her well in the next stage of her career.

She will probably stay with us for a week or two and wait for her injury to heal sufficiently so that she can gallop round a paddock. She will require an intensive course of anti-inflammatories and we are best placed to do that here.

After that, I imagine that she will go off to the National Stud, where she always spent her holidays, while her owners decide what to do next.

We also have a big decision to make as to whether we run our Oaks runner-up Architecture in the Ribblesdale on Thursday, and I am still very much in two minds about her.

She was very tired immediately after the Oaks - and I am very aware of that - but she has come out of the race really well. She came home, ate up, didn't lose much weight, and has not given me a minute's worry since Epsom.

She has been doing light canters since, and seems in great form.

I was sent some statistics that said that, in the past ten years, 19 fillies have come from the Oaks to the Ribblesdale, with only one winning. But in the same period the four horses that were placed at Epsom, and went on to run at Ascot, produced two seconds, a third and a fourth.

She is a hardy filly and no delicate flower who we know handles soft ground. To be honest, it's a very tough call and I imagine it will be a late one, too.

We also have We Are Ninety in the race, and she is in good form, too. Jim (Crowley) said it was on the softish side when she won at Newbury, but she is obviously unproven if it is soft on Thursday and the 1m4f trip is obviously an unknown, too.

These are valuable fillies and we will do what is best for their future, and their paddock value.

We have two entries in the Britannia. Wall Of Fire needs a mile, and as we all know now he ended up running over 7f at Newcastle last time and not the advertised distance. But at least we got a run into him, and the stiff mile at Ascot will suit.

However, he was dropped 2lb for that Newcastle run, so he needs five to come out to get a run. And Zodiakos, who I think will be suited by the track and the race, if not soft ground, needs nine to come out, so hopefully top-weight Haalick will get the ball rolling by running in the Jersey Stakes, which would also result in the weights going up 3lb, too.

Spanish Squeeze wouldn't want any rain all week. But he is in exceptional form ahead of the Wolferton Stakes on Saturday, and I am excited by his chances.

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